Washington, D.C. — The United States, once a global trailblazer in creating national parks and protecting natural places, is losing its mantle as a leader in land and water conservation. A first-of-its-kind analysis from the Center for American Progress shows that Canada and Mexico are now doing more than the United States to conserve their land.
The new report comes on the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s decision to slash the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in Utah by about 2 million acres—the largest reduction of protected federal land in the nation’s history.
“This administration is taking us backward when it comes to preserving our nation’s wildlife and natural places,” said Ryan Richards, author of the report and a senior policy analyst for Public Lands at CAP. “The United States has been a pioneer in conservation, including establishing the first national parks, but now Canada and Mexico have emerged as the best examples of conservation leadership in North America.”
The report highlights a stark reversal from the early 1990s, when the United States had far and away the greatest percentage of protected land among the three biggest North American countries. In 1992, the United States had about 10 percent of its total lands under conservation, while neither Canada nor Mexico had protected more than 6 percent of their lands.
Since then, Mexico has protected roughly 14 percent of its land—the highest overall in North America—and Canada now has about 10 percent of its land protected. While that total is still behind the United States, which has slightly more than 12 percent under conservation, Canada is rapidly catching up by protecting land at a much higher rate. Nearly half of its protected lands have been brought under conservation since 1992.
Canada’s federal government has also committed to spend $1.3 billion over the next five years to expand protected lands even further. By contrast, the United States is the only one out of the three largest countries in North America to show a net loss in overall protected areas in any year since 1992.
Not only has the Trump administration reduced the size of the two national monuments in Utah, but it has also removed protections in the Arctic and Izembek national wildlife refuges. Overall, those moves reduced protected land in the United States by an area 50 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park.
Read the report: “Measuring Conservation Progress in North America” by Ryan Richards
For more information, or to speak with an expert, contact Sam Hananel at gro.ssergorpnacirema@lenanahs or 202-478-6327.